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Old 7th April 2005
ProfZ's Avatar
ProfZ ProfZ is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2002                                                
Location: Meriden CT
My Saabs: 1990 900S 3-door auto. 1988 900S 4-door 5-spd.
Posts: 2,220
Default Replacing power steering rack, step by step

To cure "morning sickness"--refusal of power-assist to kick in until car is warm--in our 1990 900S, I replaced the rack. The seals in these go bad, and only do their job when softened by hot PS fluid.

General instructions are in the Bentley manual and in some postings in this forum's archives, but the devil is in the details--and these details can produce tremendous frustration and wasted time if you're unaware of them. (Guess how I know ). So, I thought I'd write down the steps before the medication wears off (I mean, before I forget any...)

(1) Inside the car, use a screwdriver (and plenty of force) to pry up the boot at the base of the steering column. Remove the driver's seat if you need to; overweight middle-aged males (such as yours truly) should remove the lower dash panel also.

(2) Swivel the boot 180 degrees to expose the lower steering shaft u-joint. Turn the steering wheel so you can clamp a pair of long-nose visegrips onto the u-joint clamp bolt's head, then use a 13mm box wrench to undo its nut. Pull out the bolt--it should slide out easily.

(3) Raise the car by its front jacking points as high as possible, remove the wheels, and remove the nuts on the tie-rod tapers. Loosen the 13/16-inch locking nut at the inboard end of each tie-rod end. Several sharp whacks with a 9- or 12-ounce hammer on the eyes into which the tie-rod ends seat will pop their tapers out from the steering knuckles. Unscrew them partway, but leave them on for now.

(4) Under the car, unscrew the 19mm locknut that attaches the steering rack to the frame on each side. Use a wrench on top to keep the bolt from turning--a helper working from above, with a socket on a long extension bar, would make this a lot easier. Remove the bolts, and the large washers under them.

(5) Forget about wiggling and twisting the rack to extract the pinion shaft from the steering shaft's u-joint. This only works for new, squeaky-clean cars being photographed for the Bentley manual Working from under the car, I pushed the rack as far as possible forwards and to the right (it won't move much!), then used a hammer and a long, thin metal bar to drive the u-joint off the pinion shaft.

(6) Now, you have to undo the 2 large hydraulic fittings in the side of the pinion housing. The lower one is 18mm, and the upper one is 16mm. This is probably the worst part of the job, because of the very limited space around these fittings. I undid them with just ordinary open-ended wrenches, but alternating these with crowfoot wrenches on a short breaker bar would help.

Begin with the lower fitting. What you do is move/twist the rack until you can get the wrench jaws on the fitting, then move it a whopping 1/100 of a turn at a time...

When the fitting is loose, reach around through the hole in the wheelarch above the rack with your left hand, and undo the fitting the rest of the way with your left thumb and forefinger while you wiggle the hose with your right hand to make the fitting easier to turn. Let hose drain into a pan, then tuck it out of the way.

Now undo (and remove) the hose clamp holding the upper fitting's metal pipe to the rack so you can wiggle this pipe, and undo its fitting. Again, let the pipe drain into a pan and then tuck it up out of the way.

(7) Unscrew and set aside the LH tie-rod end. Pull (or, better, have your helper pull) the RH tie-rod end until the rack is extended fully. Push the rack to the right, aiming to get it about 1/4-way out through its hole in the wheelarch. Your helper can pull on the tie-rod end to guide the rack, and can give you instructions as to which way to move/twist the rack. Keep going until you can get the LH inner tie rod below the LH frame rail.

(8) Now, have your helper push the RH tie-rod end in as far as it will go, then unscrew it and set it aside. Work the rack downwards and to the left, turning it so the pinion housing faces down, until it is free and clear. The rack will be heavier than you expect--shipping weight is about 15 pounds!

(9) Remove and save the 13/16-inch nuts from the rack's inner tie rods; they don't come with the rebuilt rack. Loosen the plastic plugs in the "new" rack, where the hydraulic fittings will go, but don't remove them--the new rack is full of fluid, and it will dribble all over you...

(10) Go inside the car, and move the steering shaft's lower u-joint by hand. Make sure both yokes move without binding (on our car, one was seized so badly I could barely move it by hand--with the steering shaft out of the car and in a vise! This explained the stiff-easy-stiff-easy feel when turning the steering, even with both front wheels off the ground. I cannibalized the steering shaft from my '88, soon to be scrapped due to rust )

(11) Extend the new rack fully left, and follow steps (8) and (7) in reverse. Then, refit the upper hydraulic fitting by reaching around and through the hole in the wheelarch with your left hand. Now screw in the fitting with your left thumb and forefinger, while wiggling the pipe with your right hand (reach it between the trans and the exhaust downpipe). Tighten with wrenches. Repeat for lower fitting. Replace hose clamp holding metal pipe to rack body.

(12) To reconnect steering u-joint with rack's pinion shaft, push/pull a tie-rod end to get the groove in the shaft facing forwards. From inside the car, a helper can turn the steering wheel so the u-joint's clamp bolt holes also face forwards, then he/she can slip the u-joint onto the pinion while directing you to wiggle the rack as needed.

Check that the clamp bolt goes through the u-joint and the groove in the pinion shaft! If you're close, meaning you can insert a screwdriver but not the bolt, try tapping the bolt in from inside the car with a hammer and metal bar. If it won't go through, separate the joint and shaft, reposition, and try again. Hint: Scratch a mark on the back of the pinion shaft and on the back of the u-joint. Insert bolt and tighten its nut onto it.

(13) Refit the rack's mounting bolts, washers, and nuts. Now try reinstalling the rubber boot from inside the car--and if you figure out how to do it, please tell me (I just tucked the boot's flange under the carpet for now ).

(14) With front of car stil off ground, tie-rod ends fitted, and wheels back on, fill PS fluid reservoir. Start engine. Add more fluid right away. Turn steering wheel lock-to-lock several times until operation is smooth; the pump belt may screech in the beginning at full lock. Top up fluid if needed. Switch off engine and lower the car.

(15) Fill your system with the, um, lubricant of your choice You've earned it!

Last edited by ProfZ; 7th April 2005 at 11:09 PM.
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Old 8th April 2005
cdaly's Avatar
cdaly cdaly is offline
Join Date: Dec 2003                                                
Location: Dublin, Ireland
My Saabs: '92 900LPT, '90 900i vert
Posts: 4,637

Nice one! Hope you enjoyed it... Definately one for the FAQ.

Originally Posted by ProfZ
TNow try reinstalling the rubber boot from inside the car--and if you figure out how to do it, please tell me (I just tucked the boot's flange under the carpet for now ).
Getting this boot back in is really a matter of grunt work, bending your fingertips back to your knuckles and ripping your fingernails off. From memory (about 3 years ago), engage the bottom end of the boot on the lip in the body, squeeze the sides into place and then persuade the top end of the boot into place. You'll probably need some sort of edge for this bit. Screwdrivers are likely to puncture the boot and the best thing is a plastic "knife" as used by windscreen fitters. Pushing the narrow ring of the boot down the u-joint shaft can help also, puts more 'engaging' pressure on the rim of the boot so it's more likely to slip into place as you persuade...
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Old 24th July 2005
Matthew's Avatar
Matthew Matthew is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2001                                                
Location: Gloucestershire, UK
My Saabs: 900 S Aero Turbo, 9-5 Aero
Posts: 14,069

This evening I removed a steering rack. It's a filthy job: I found literally a 1/4-inch thick layer mix of grease, road grime and oil covering everything. Everything gets plastered in the muck.

I would strongly recommend that anyone considering this DIY get their engine bay cleaned out. It'll make the job far less grim.

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Last edited by Matthew; 20th February 2008 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 4th October 2012
leeb leeb is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2012                                                
Location: Cazadero CA USA
My Saabs: Classic 900, Convertible 900
Posts: 31

I am about to embark on this job in the next couple of months. Are there any parts that should be replaced while the rack is out? I'm thinking U-Joints in the steering maybe, not sure what really wears down there after 20+yrs.

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Old 4th October 2012
Jim Mesthene's Avatar
Jim Mesthene Jim Mesthene is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006                                                
Location: Waltham, MA
My Saabs: Wife's 9-3
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Oil the lower U-joint.
No professional removes the Pinion pinch bolt from inside the car, you don't do anything inside the car except immobilize the steering wheel if you have an airbag.
"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities".
- Voltaire -
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Old 4th October 2012
leeb leeb is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2012                                                
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Thanks Jim. I am far from a professional, so this is great.
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Old 8th October 2012
abartas's Avatar
abartas abartas is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2010                                                
Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
My Saabs: 1988 900 Turbo Convertible, '97 9K Aero
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Fantastic write-up, I'll print it off for future reference! Now I have a quick question. Will a rack I order in the U.S. fit a RHD car in Australia? I am soon to be needing a new rack and the best option to get parts is from overseas.
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